The Tragedy of American Diplomacy: A Rebuttal

Williams, W. A. (1962). The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. New York: Dell Pub. Co.

When the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) pinned Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine on NATO’s “imperialist expansionism,” many policymakers and journalists on both sides of the political spectrum lambasted the organization for its half-hearted condemnation of Russian aggression and equivocal display of solidarity with Ukrainians. Even some leftists felt compelled to push back against the statement and call out “tankies” for their reluctance to oppose Moscow’s belligerence.

But while the DSA’s stance is not representative of mainstream liberals, the same cannot be said for those further to the left. In fact, the DSA’s controversial position on Russia–Ukraine is directly in line with a conceptual framework that has long informed left-wing criticisms of American foreign policy.

This school of thought finds its roots in classical Marxism but was mainly applied as an interpretive scheme to U.S. foreign relations starting in the early 20th century. Among the opponents of U.S. acquisition of the Philippines and the controversial policies of the Roosevelt and Taft administrations was a faction that viewed capitalist expansion as the primary factor driving American involvement globally. This narrative was popularized in 1934 by Charles A. Beard, who later inspired a cohort of “revisionist” historians whose contributions considerably shaped criticisms of U.S. policy during the Vietnam War era, particularly among the emerging “New Left” movement.

One of the most influential of these works is The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, written by prominent revisionist historian William Appleman Williams in 1959. In Tragedy, Williams traces the foundations of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century to Secretary of State John Hay’s “Open Door notes,” formulated in 1899 to promote American access to Chinese markets. According to Williams, the Open Door Policy reflected an almost unanimous belief among leading economic and political leaders at the time that overseas commercial expansion was imperative to stave off economic dislocation and sustain American prosperity and democracy. In order to secure foreign markets for industrial and agricultural surplus production and ensure access to raw materials, U.S. elites embarked “for the next half-century” on a mission to establish an open-door “informal empire” of “free-trade imperialism”—not only in East Asia but throughout the entire world. Though American leaders “were not evil men,” Williams asserts that even their ideological and humanitarian efforts in developing nations were designed to harvest “the fruits of expansion.”

The cover of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959) by William Appleman Williams

In the latter part of Tragedy, Williams turns his attention to the onset of the Cold War, for which he lays the blame squarely on Washington. Embracing the traditional pattern of Open Door expansionism, U.S. diplomats aimed to “economically penetrate” markets throughout Europe and Asia, and thus resisted the Soviets’ desire for “minimum natural and desirable frontiers in eastern Europe” and ignored Moscow’s postwar reconstruction and reparation needs. Williams takes issue with claims that the Soviet Union was a dynamically expansionist power analogous to Nazi Germany, and argues that Stalin’s ruthless Sovietization and Communization of Eastern Europe was a warranted response to America’s and Britain’s growing hostility. Similarly, the “rising tide of revolution” throughout the world was yet another sign that the U.S. needed to respect rather than resist left-wing radicals who, unlike America and its allies, offered a picture of “brutality and betterment.”

Though overall exasperating, Tragedy does have a few positive aspects that are worth noting. Williams sheds light on the importance of foreign markets and overseas investment to the American economy, which at the time was an underemphasized dimension of U.S. foreign policy. He is also generally correct about the interplay between economics, politics, ideology, and national security (though not about the exact causal mechanisms behind these relationships).

Additionally, Tragedy convincingly rebuts the traditional narrative of the U.S. being a historically “isolationist” power, pointing to episodes of westward expansion and interventions in Latin America, and provides thoughtful observations about the limitations of promoting American-style modernity in the developing world. Williams is not entirely wrong, either, that U.S. diplomats could have taken steps to mitigate the intensity of the Cold War at certain points. It is also important to note that some criticisms of Tragedy, particularly regarding the stability of the Soviet Union, can only be made in hindsight.

Nonetheless, there are significant flaws with Tragedy’s core arguments. Williams grossly overstates the role that economic interests play in U.S. foreign policy and gives short shrift to other geopolitical and ideological motives that informed the drive for openness and free trade, particularly after World War II. His insistence on linking every major decision made by U.S. policymakers throughout the 20th century to the Open Door Policy is forced and, at times, contradictory (particularly when it comes to loan policies toward the Soviets), and he often resorts to roundabout logic and speculative rants to connect the dots.

Moreover, Williams lazily throws complex and diverse personalities such as Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and Harry Truman into the category of overseas economic expansionists, despite considerable differences between free-traders and protectionists during this era. Finally, Tragedy downplays the Soviet Union’s expansionist vision and often mischaracterizes the relationship between the U.S. and its overseas allies.

Starting Points: The Spanish–American War to World War II

Though Williams is mistaken in attributing America’s declaration of war against Spain to business sentiment, which in reality was overwhelmingly opposed to intervention in the buildup to the conflict, he is nonetheless correct that European advances in China around this time influenced the decision to retain the Philippines—even dovish business leaders started to regard the islands as crucial naval bases for defending their financial interests in Asia. A widespread desire to expand American commerce also shaped the hard-nosed diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

However, it is inaccurate to assume a continuation of this approach under the Wilson administration. Tragedy predictably portrays the American entry into World War I as a crusade to protect Wall Street’s financial stake in an Allied victory. But as economic historian Adam Tooze summarizes in The Deluge, “Lenin may have declared imperialism to be the highest stage of capitalism, but Wilson had other ideas.” To curtail the bankers’ influence and pressure the Allies to make a peace compromise, Wilson urged the Federal Reserve in November 1916 to issue a strongly worded warning to both member banks and private investors against increasing their holdings of British and French securities. Much to J.P. Morgan’s alarm, the Fed’s statement temporarily paralyzed the Entente’s entire financing effort. To Wilson, who would continue maintaining his distance from the British and French even after the publication of the Zimmerman telegram the following year forced him to enter the war, the ideal outcome was not an Allied victory but a “peace without victory” under the auspices of a neutral world order led by the U.S. His “open-door” vision of free trade, hardly a ploy for commercial expansion, was part of his broader ambition to use America’s emerging financial power to foster peace in Europe and suppress foreign imperial rivalry, which he regarded as the principal cause of the war in the first place.

Wilson’s wariness towards Wall Street and foreign economic competition manifested in other policies, such as his progressive domestic reforms, termination of “dollar diplomacy,” refusal to recognize the Huerta regime in Mexico (despite it’s being favorable to Western business interests), rejection of protectionism, initiation of the process towards Philippine independence, and his sincere attempt to respect Chinese sovereignty by withdrawing official backing for the participation by American banks in the controversial “Six-Power Loan.” Of course, Wilson was by no means perfect, and his racial views and ideological convictions did, at times, get in the way of his “moral diplomacy.” But his overall legacy would set the foundation for an internationalist outlook that would eventually become a cornerstone of American diplomacy.

Though Wilson’s Republican successors, who all linked American prosperity with events overseas, may at a first glance seem to better fit Tragedys framework, other diplomatic historians have explained why this wasn’t necessarily the case. Republican officials during this period primarily saw the home market and domestic economy as the main determinants of American well-being and believed the U.S. could insulate itself from troubling global developments. Thus, they approved war debt policies that were inflexible towards the country’s debtors, as well as several protectionist measures, to satisfy domestic economic and political concerns, even though business leaders protested that such courses of action would impair foreign purchases of American goods. Of course, U.S. foreign exports and investments nonetheless increased notably in the 1920s, but this was more the result of World War I’s disruption of existing trade patterns than a concerted effort by the American government. Moreover, the relative importance of exports to overall economic growth began to decline, and the U.S. actually ran an unfavorable balance of trade with the non-European world (made up for by the surplus with Europe) despite being self-reliant in most basic resources. Surprisingly, even the attitude of American businessmen towards China—the main focus of the Open Door Policy—eventually shifted from interest to indifference.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was initially also skeptical of the importance of foreign markets to the American economy. But Secretary of State Cordell Hull eventually convinced him that lowering tariffs and reviving reciprocal trade relations were crucial for escaping the Great Depression. Hull did view the expansion of international trade as a means of offloading excess production and increasing employment rates, but he also saw free trade as a potent tool to eliminate the causes of potential conflict by promoting economic interdependence, financial stability, and global prosperity. By depicting the push for multilateral trade in the buildup to World War II as a self-serving strategy to advance corporate interests, Williams dismisses the salience of these other diplomatic concerns after the outbreak of World War II. However, there is little evidence that a desire to expand U.S. trade and investment had any noteworthy impact on postwar planning, which regarded increasing imports as more crucial for international economic recovery. As American policy during the Cold War demonstrates, these global aims were paramount compared to supposed open-door expansionist schemes.

U.S. National Security Policy during the Cold War

To Williams and other New Left intellectuals, the Soviet Union was not an inherently expansionist power with global ambitions. Furthermore, they contend that Washington didn’t resist communism and other revolutionary movements due to the ideological and military threat that they posed but because they “challenged and limited such [commercial] expansion” by nationalizing industries and closing off their markets to foreign exports and investments. Some critics have gone so far as to allege that American diplomats intentionally fabricated the communist threat in developing countries to justify interventions that were actually aimed at defending profits of American companies.

This interpretation is riddled with inaccuracies. Firstly, it is essential to understand that the Soviet Union was an expansionist power. As Stephen Kotkin, John Lewis Gaddis, Anne Applebaum and numerous other historians had made clear, the Soviets sincerely believed it was their international mission to achieve worldwide communist revolutions, first in Europe and then in the overseas colonies, and lead a new civilizational order rooted in Marxism–Leninism. Moscow’s numerous international initiatives—initially through the Comintern and then through other institutions—and establishment of “united fronts” with Third World revolutionaries were part of a broader strategy to weaken the West, project Soviet power, and, over time, steer developing nations towards advanced socialism. While the Soviet Union may not have commanded an influence and presence abroad that America enjoyed, this was not because it was more limited in its global ambitions, but because it lacked the military, technological, economic, and diplomatic advantages necessary to achieve them.

Though Stalin and his successors were more cautious than Hitler in avoiding direct military confrontation with the West, this should not be mistaken for any “isolationist” sentiment on their part. Not only was the Sovietization of Eastern Europe in the late 1940s largely independent of U.S. and Western “hostility,” but Stalin had also expected inter-imperialist rivalry among capitalist states to eventually pave the way for communist and Soviet domination of Western Europe. When this failed to materialize, Stalin turned his attention to opening a “second front” in the East with the help of the Chinese Communists. Nikita Khrushchev would go on to intensify Moscow’s support for third World struggles, and Russia’s worldwide operations were significantly expanded under Leonid Brezhnev. Certainly, Washington may have exaggerated the communist threat at times, but one shouldn’t overlook how Stalin’s blatant violation of the Yalta agreement, the Red Army’s brutality in Eastern Europe, and Moscow’s hegemonic aspirations elsewhere hardened the U.S. approach towards Russia after World War II.

Additionally, Williams’s claim that American anti-communism can be traced to “open-door” expansionism simply does not hold up to scrutiny. Other historians have pointed out that U.S. economic interests in Eastern Europe were marginal at best, and rapprochement with the Soviet Union, as opposed to containment, would have better served American profit interests. Moreover, Washington’s willingness to forge ties with social democratic, socialist, or even communist regimes to achieve Cold War objectives demonstrates the relative insignificance of business interests. Even among Washington’s allies in the developing world who embraced market economics, American private investors were often reluctant to invest in their growth, regarding it as too risky compared to opportunities within the U.S. and in Europe and Canada.

In terms of U.S. intervention in the Third World, a detailed analysis by political scientist Dr. Mi Yung Yoon confirms that communist presence and involvement of a Soviet ally were the main precipitators of U.S. involvement, whereas “the change in the values of imports, exports, and foreign investment shows a negligible effect on the probability that the United States will intervene”—hardly a surprising conclusion given that Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and other intense theaters of the Cold War were of little direct economic importance to Washington. Even notorious covert operations, while certainly objectionable from a moral standpoint, were ultimately motivated by anti-communism rather than a desire to protect American investments. For instance, though the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954 is often linked to the United Fruit Company, the company was subject to antitrust rulings by the Eisenhower administration shortly after the operation, which eventually led to its downfall.

To be sure, as the world’s largest economy, the U.S. did want access to overseas markets and favorable trade conditions. But rather than as the raison d’être for American diplomacy, these motives should be understood as one of many goals and, if anything, ones that often took a back seat to other priorities. More importantly, as historian Odd Arne Westad illustrates in The Global Cold War and A Cold War: A World History, even when Washington did pursue certain economic interests, it was in a much broader, systemic sense. U.S. foreign policy in the postwar era was primarily directed towards the success of global capitalism as a whole rather than the defense of particular American businesses or their interests. Through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, aid programs like USAID, and a worldwide network of military bases, the U.S. promoted a global capitalist economy that would stabilize the international financial system and act as a bulwark against the Soviets and other challengers. This internationalist outlook faltered slightly in the 1970s after Nixon effectively destroyed the Bretton Woods system to give a boost to struggling American companies, but as globalization took off in the following decades, the U.S. found itself returning to its traditional role of safeguarding an interconnected capitalist system.

Take the American preoccupation with controlling Middle Eastern oil supplies, which “blood for oil” theorists often strip from its global context. Until the 1970s, the U.S. was primarily self-sufficient in terms of domestic oil consumption, but Western Europe and Japan desperately needed energy sources from the Greater Middle East to restore production and rebuild their economies after World War II. Aware of this dependence, the Soviet Union aimed to bolster its position in the Persian Gulf to slow—perhaps even halt—such supplies to trigger a “crisis of capitalism” and weaken NATO. Thus, as part of its Cold War grand strategy, Washington sought to prevent the Soviets from expanding their influence in the Middle East. Over time, America’s own energy interests would become wedded into this picture, though post-9/11 interventions had other reasons, but the U.S., nonetheless, continued acting to ensure adequate supplies for the capitalist world as a whole. Maintaining a strategic presence in the region also enabled Washington to deny Moscow additional oil supplies that could potentially be used for offensive military purposes.

Though people bearing the brunt of superpower intervention may understandably see this as a distinction without a difference, these nuances offer critical revelations of the underlying nature of American diplomacy. Tragedy and other revisionist works mainly depict the ideological, reformist, and geostrategic motives of U.S. policymakers as means of facilitating the expansion of the domestic economy. But, as the post-revisionist scholar John Lewis Gaddis neatly countered, “economic instruments were used to serve political ends, not the other way around as the Leninist model of imperialism seems to imply.” Indeed, American economic policies were often directed towards advancing the nation’s long-term national security by preventing another breakdown of international order, fostering liberalism abroad, and maintaining a global balance of power that favored the “Free World.”

U.S. reconstruction efforts in Western Europe are a good case in point. Though some postwar planners occasionally stressed the disastrous impact Europe’s deterioration could have on the American economy, the actual prosecution of the Marshall Plan and other aid initiatives demonstrates that far more pertinent concerns were at play. Understanding the link between poverty and communist agitation, U.S. policymakers proved remarkably flexible in allowing Europeans themselves to decide how funds should be allocated, much of which proved indispensable to funding social service programs and building robust welfare states, and in the case of the Nordic countries that participated, establishing numerous state-owned industries. In West Germany, Washington’s willingness to peg the Deutsche Mark to the dollar at a low exchange rate (which was unfavorable to American exporters) helped enable the miraculous economic revival known as the Wirtschaftswunder.

American trade policy in East Asia also challenges the revisionist argument. In the 1960s, Japan’s economy began growing rapidly through its export-driven approach, and soon the “Four Asian Tigers''—Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong—and China under Deng Xiaoping would eventually follow suit. According to Westad, U.S. administrations not only provided crucial economic aid but also facilitated its East Asian allies’ access to Western markets (primarily the U.S.) to promote their export-led development. In other words, it was not America’s “open door” to Asian (and other developing) nations but, rather, their access to Western capital and markets that ultimately mattered during the Cold War. For Washington, the strategic benefit of having powerful and wealthy East Asian allies far outweighed any short-term disagreements over trade practices.

These examples expose two other major flaws with Tragedy’s thesis. Firstly, they demonstrate that the future did not lie with the Soviet Union and other left-wing revolutionaries. Third World radicalists failed abysmally to promote meaningful change in their societies, and the human cost of their ideological crusades was simply appalling. True, Western intervention also often had devastating consequences, and not all allies benefited equally from their relationship with Washington. But the final outcome of the Cold War speaks for itself. Overall, the nations integrated in the U.S.-led capitalist order not only delivered far better for their populations economically, but also proved more amenable to political liberalization than their revolutionary counterparts.

Additionally, the bilateral nature of these relationships brings into focus the agency of actors outside the U.S.—a peculiar omission for an “anti-imperialist.” Many leaders actively sought ties with the U.S. (or in their rivals’ case, the U.S.S.R) to further their own economic growth and receive security guarantees against adversaries, internal and external, whom they opposed for their own reasons. This is especially true for Europe and East Asia and also applies to many (though not all) countries in the developing world. Williams curiously cites Saudi Arabia as one of the victims of U.S. economic exploitation, overlooking how the Kingdom and other partners in the Middle East shared with Washington a mutual desire to preserve the status quo in the region. Even “non-aligned” states that fiercely opposed the bipolar international system eventually found it unsustainable to meet their regional or domestic goals without engaging either Washington or Moscow. While it is true that American policymakers pursued regime change to bring about certain leaders more favorable to Western Cold War interests, critics generally fail to mention the major, if not decisive, roles that indigenous forces had in those operations.

Thus, rather than as an American (or Soviet) imposition, the Cold War is better understood as being part of a longer, global struggle between capitalism and communism.

Conclusion

Though Tragedy and the other revisionist works that followed have now largely been discredited by more recent, holistic accounts of the Cold War, the revisionist interpretation persists nonetheless. It can be found in the publications of Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, and numerous other left-wing “anti-imperialists." As their response to Putin’s belligerence, along with a track record of justifying communist and Islamist violence in the past shows, these revisionists are often motivated not by a principled aversion to non-aggression, but rather by a reflexive opposition to American hegemony. Like Marx, Lenin, and Williams, they interpret imperialism as a direct consequence of capitalism instead of state power.

The aggression of non-capitalist hegemons like the Soviet Union demonstrates otherwise. So does the interplay of forces influencing intervention in market-oriented nations such as the United States. One of the lessons of the Cold War and the preceding decades appears to be that while economic interests are important, it is misleading to portray them as the leading motivation behind American diplomacy or take them out of context. Today, as in the past, special interest groups, business elites, and corporations (including defense contractors) may influence certain foreign policy decisions, but other ideological and security motives seem to be more pertinent. More often than not, their role seems to be an eagerness to cash in on policies made for other reasons rather than directly bringing about those policies in the first place.

While there is no doubt that American foreign policy deserves its fair share of criticism, cynicism will do more harm than good. A major challenge for the United States will be to continue playing a constructive role abroad and contain revisionist challengers while learning the appropriate lessons from its failures in the past. Tragically, that’s an undertaking to which the works of Williams, the New Left, and their modern-day offshoots have almost nothing to contribute.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2022/05/06/the-tragedy-of-american-diplomacy-a-rebuttal/
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Wow! What a great essay. I think the author should have concentrated less on more distant history, and more on the Cold War period, perhaps even highlighting instances where commercial interests prevailed, such as in Iran and with American backing of the Shah of Persia, maybe even emphasising how mission drift occurred as a result of allied interests. But generally, the essay gives a sense of how history is often defined as lurching from one crisis to another, with international attempts at communism serving as both agent provocateur and existential threat to American policy makers intent upon leveraging international stability and the status quo to create a world in which democracy could not only exist, but also prosper.

Of course, there is an additional aspect to this thesis on the domestic front. How much of national and global capital’s tolerance for expensive social policies was based upon the fear of the existential threat posed by global communism? The generally very well-educated capital class of the time would have been well aware of Bismarck’s incredible success in staving off communism with welfare capitalism, and with the demise of the Soviet Union, especially as an international force to be reckoned with, how much of the free market reforms and fiscal austerity which followed were as a result of the perception that the threat had passed?

Often international spectators assign malevolence where none exists. They fail to see that often international events are predicted on panic and fear, or that tragedies like the Forever Wars are caused not only by the earnest desire to foster democracy worldwide, but also by the sheer stupidity of Foreign Policy Establishment willing to engage in wishful thinking in areas like sanctions or the long-term military occupations which inevitably follow from the desire to fulfil jus post bellum obligations whilst simultaneously installing West-friendly democracies. In this, they should take a note from their Soviet opponents of yesteryear- if a thing has not worked once in the dozens of times you’ve tried it, don’t persist in the notion that it can be done, if only done right.

As usual my essays are to be found on my Substack, which is free to view and comment:

Thanks again for a highly illuminating essay. If I were the author I would print a placard and hang it on my wall- Hanlon’s Razor- “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” It would serve as a useful reminder when planning essays. The desire amongst the commentariat to see malign interest where such considerations are only secondary in nature, veils the thought which should terrify us- our leaders really don’t know what they are doing, and neither does the permanent administrative state ensconced in most Western democracies. If the pandemic taught us anything, it should have taught us this- but as additional proof we need only look to the fact the German policy makers honestly believed that Russian gas dependence actually made Russia hostage to their financial purchasing power, rather than the reverse being true.

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Not a bad essay, but are there that many people who still adhere to these (often hilariously) dated views about 20th century US foreign policy? There probably are and I’m just not paying attention in order to protect my own sanity.

One quibble: I don’t think it’s totally fair to lump Glenn Greenwald in with Noam Chomsky. Greenwald’s criticisms of US foreign policy are mainly focused on Bush Era Neo-con adventurism, if I’m not mistaken, which was a lot less defensible than Cold War realpolitik, if only on grounds that none of it actually worked. Chomsky, on the other hand, was (is?) a dishonest ideologue and a useful idiot for murderous third world authoritarian regimes:

[Chomsky and Herman] are outraged that anyone accuses them of denying the Cambodian genocide, and they say this is evil right-wing character assassination propaganda. They then go on to say, kind of flailingly, that also the Cambodian genocide wasn’t that bad, that all the media reports about it were lies, that it was the US’ fault anyway, that the US did worse things anyway, that Cambodia before the genocide was even worse, that America secretly loved Pol Pot and was his best friend, and also shut up shut up shut up. As far as I can get any kind of coherent thesis at all out of this, they seem to be saying they were Gettier cased; every media report of the genocide was a vile right-wing propaganda lie, but coincidentally, a genocide exactly like the one reported in the media occurred.

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Thanks.

What the media engages in, and has for about 30 years, at least, isn’t “manufacturing consent.” It’s manufacturing outrage, along with being convenient source of distraction. You can’t engage in old-school censorship these days in any case; there’s too much information. If distraction is the new censorship, manufactured outrage is the main show, driven by the new model of “narrowcasting” and “user engage(enrage?)ment” – gluing attention and eyeballs to screens, advertisers, and data brokers.

When I wrote “new,” I meant it’s new to us who grew up in the twilight of the the old model of “broadcasting” – literally, cast broadly, to a wide audience, appealing to, explaining to, and often reflecting breadth, not narrow, ill-informed fanaticism. The old model was broad and often shallow, although not always. The old model was put on the defensive by television, cable television, and the Internet. Social media then virtually killed it.

As for the DSA, they are a problem only because the Democrats started to lose control of their primaries a decade ago or so. Filtering these people out before primaries, forcing candidates to be existing Democratic politicians, would eliminate this fringe kook element from our public life. Higher voter participation (declining for decades) would help too. Competitive general elections aren’t possible in many districts, gerrymandered as they are. The kooks can’t really be stopped after they win a primary.

The NATO expansion business is an absurd red herring, suitable only for the credulous rubes who parrot Russian disinformation. The last eastern European countries entered NATO in 2004.

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How can you continue playing a constructive role, when you never played a constructive role to begin with?

Nice how you discarded all critics of American imperialism as “revisionists”, when you yourself are a revisionist by definition.

Tragically your own revisionist work doesn’t have anything to contribute either, just adds one more pathetic brainwash attempt to an already endless list.

So true, the NATO expansion is totally Russian disinformation, initially 12 countries, there are 28 European countries in NATO right now, last ones joining in 2009. No sir, that’s Russian disinformation, and the expected joining of Finland and Sweden is also disinformation.
All NATO countries are expected to pay 2% of their GDP every year and also " Interestingly enough, in the military structure of NATO, a U.S. military officer is always commander-in-chief of NATO forces so that U.S. troops never come under the control of a foreign power."

Forever wars caused by the earnest desire to foster democracy worldwide…if you believe that you are beyond help.
Reminds me of a joke: you should be nice to Americans, because if not, they will come to your country and bring you democracy

They are both true, else Russia would have shut the gas valves the moment Germany started delivering weapons to Ukraine.

You missed the ‘not only’ and the broader context of seeing communism as an existential threat. Continue to clip comments out of context to your hearts content- people only need to hit the up arrow on my quote in your post to see the full original comment to which you are responding…

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As “credulous rubes” go, you really deserve an A for effort. There might be the occasional person who still accepts this NATO business as an ‘explanation’ for Putin’s war. And only a special few, like you, who proposes that this NATO thing ‘excuses’ Putin’s war. But if you’re gonna keep whining about it, at least get it straight. The last “eastern Euro” members, like the Baltic states, and Romania and Bulgaria, were indeed in 2004. 2009 was continuation of the Balkan states, but the most recent was 2020. None of which justifies the invasion of a sovereign Ukraine.

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Really like your fatuous fulminations, very entertaining.

No sir i did not miss the “not only”, but what follows after the “not only” does not change or excuse the fallacious statement.
And when called out on your raving fallacy, you claim i “missed the broader context”. No i did not miss the broader context at all, but the context does not change the fact you conflate wars against communism with “wars caused by an earnest desire to foster democracy”, and that’s a fallacy of a laughable sort.
Not to mention your argument died over 30 years ago, together with the “existential threat”.

Trying to defend your fallacy, you made an interesting statement that deserves particular attention:

So seeing communism as an existential threat, justified America’s “forever wars”, but seeing NATO getting into Ukraine as an existential threat doesn’t justify anything.
That’s a double standard isn’t it?

Dude, are you for real? Do you drive a Yugo? The US has made many errors along the way, but it has definitely played a positive and constructive role in the world. It seems that you hold the US to a particularly high standard and are unwilling to hold the rest of the world’s loser nations to the same standard… Critics like you are so deeply into American “exceptionalism” that any fault of the US is a crime against humanity while any fault in some shithole nation is a direct result of the US. This is just bullshit. Most nations in the world suck because their cultures and people suck. Russians, for example, pretty much suck. I mean fuck it. Call a spade a spade. Russians produce nothing. Sure, they have music and literature but Tchaikovsky enjoyed his catamites a bit too much and well… Tolstoy is just fucking boring. I mean fuck, there would be no War and Peace without Napoleon. Only the French make Russian history even bearable… Otherwise, what little they do produce is shit. They know it. We know it. Everyone knows it. Nobody is clamoring to buy Russian shit or listen to shitty Russian music or watch shitty Russian movies. Why not? Because Russia sucks. Probably because it is full of Russians…

It’s not America’s fault that they suck. It’s their fault. They have been shit for a pretty long fucking time. Certainly longer than America has even been a fucking country. I mean c’mon man… you can’t watch the class retard fail and fail and fail and keep blaming the kid who gets the answers right. In the end, the class retard is failing because he’s a fucking retard.

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Yes i’m for real, and no i don’t drive a Yugo, but i fail to see what would be wrong with driving one.

Don’t say, really?

If you say so, it must be true.

Funny statement, you are talking about holding to standards and you are referring to the “rest of the world nations” as “loser nations”. Now that’s an example of standards.
But no, i do not hold any nation to any standard, high or low, i just look at historic facts that’s all, you might try it too sometime.

You could start by listening to yourself, on one side the US, on the other “shithole nations”. With such a view of the world, i’m not surprised at your reaction to my posts.

Quoted for lulz

You are even trying to up the ante here, but let me tell you that i do watch Russian movies and i do listen to Russian music, just like i listen to music from around the world, and watching movies from around the world when the opportunity presents itself.
Now to answer your question “why people don’t watch these movies and listen to that music”? Because they are not exposed to them, because America is culturally inbred, and that is exactly what creates mentalities like yours.

Quoted because i hope one day you will grow up to be ashamed of the stuff you say, i mean c’mon man :stuck_out_tongue:

You forget to mention that every country has joined NATO to date had done so voluntarily. The same cannot be said of the former Warsaw Pact countries under Soviet thrall, as witnessed by the almost universal celebrations seen when they were finally free. And if you read the original post, I specifically stated that the American use of Forever Wars was wishful thinking and invariably led to military occupations- something which is antithetical to anyone with any sense of justice or indeed, sense. I actually criticised the policy as unrealistic to the extent that I compared it to communism!

So, in effect, you were criticising me for being critical and condemning America, in exactly the same way that I have consistently criticised the Soviet Union and Russia for their acts of aggression.

The fact that America’s foreign misadventures tend to be more a matter of stupidity than malice doesn’t excuse the very real harms and instability their Forever Wars have caused around the world, although I will admit that Russia’s move into Ukraine is every bit as stupid as it is malicious.

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This is another fallacy. Joining NATO involves the obligation to contribute at least 2% of GDP, and the obligation to send your troops into wars not your own. As stated by politicians from most western countries, NATO had lost it’s raison d’etre after the fall of the Soviet Union, and yet it continued to be expanded. Countries like Romania or Bulgaria had no strategic interest in joining NATO, and no economic interest either, as being forced to spend 2% of GDP is not an attractive prospect for any country, let alone countries with less than strong economies.
You seem to be living in blissful ignorance if you consider that countries joined NATO “voluntarily”.

This story ended 30 years ago, maybe you missed it.

You should read your original post, because i did, and now you are trying to deny you said what you said.

That is not exactly what you said, and it’s not all you said, and your criticism of the forever wars does not change the fact you stated that at least in part they were motivated by an earnest desire to foster democracy.
You seem to be living in the lala land of the democracy export industry, and that was my specific criticism.

America’s interventions are neither stupidity nor malice, presently they are representing the interests of the ruling authorities in America, which are the military industrial complex, and the globalist imperialists who objectively need the weakening of Russia and China, which are the last standing obstacles in the way of the American planetary hegemony.

Failed at objectivity again.

I believe that a perfect recent example for the media “manufacturing outrage” is the so-called Don’t Say Gay legislation that was recently passed in Florida. It was attacked in Hollywood, by Democrats and even by the White House. However, if the bill is read - there is NOTHING in the bill that mentions the word Gay at all. There is nothing there that infringes on anyone’s rights. The bill wanted to stop any sex education taught to Kindergarten, or First and Second graders. It wanted to wait to teach these topics at a more age appropriate level. We don’t teach Geography or History at the early levels either.

However, Democrats accused them of being Nazis (again) wanting yo deny young children their rights etc, etc. blah blah blah.

But - no one held them accountable. This was never labeled as “fake news” or “disinformation” even though this is a clear example of both. And when spread by the main-stream-media, this shows how they manufacture outrage.

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Agreed. It was an especially absurd case. Five minutes of checking the facts would have dispelled the disinformation (and I use that word advisedly) being spread by our pathetic, failed news media.

We can hold them accountable to start with by no longer consuming their poisoned junk food. But it’s the social media complex that needs the real attention, because that’s what’s driving it. Break them up, end the Section 230 farce, and limit or ban their business model.

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Which is true. It’s where American pragmatism shifts into what can only be described as an ideological position, glaring in its naivety. Generally, the American use of soft power to promote democracy and an economic system which has raised material living standards around the world wherever it has been tried, has been extraordinarily successful, best demonstrated by the fact that between 2000 and2012, over a billion people were raised out of absolute poverty (living on under $1.90 a day). As previously stated, for the most part, the use of American military power to accomplish similar aims was an unmitigated disaster. To an Enlightened and Evolved State, the threat of military force as a check against aggression is more useful than its actuality.

However, in the Middle East in particular, the American ideological belief that democratic enrichment is a one-size-fits-all prescription equally useful to any people, regardless of culture or religious belief, in practice works out as democratise or we will shoot! The Soviets made the same mistake in Afghanistan- the only difference being that their prescription was shit.

The ‘globalist imperialists’ you describe are all deeply in bed with China. They didn’t want the status quo with China disrupted because it helped enhance their wealth and power.

Sounds positively dystopian!

So you don’t think people shouldn’t be free to govern themselves? Democracy may have its flaws, but it does have the distinction of being better than all the other systems- although people do seem to be happier, according to surveys and polls, in constitutional monarchies. Perhaps because in these countries the Sovereign serves the ceremonial role of head of state, and the political leader is relegated to the role of suitably humble civil servant.

It is not a fallacy. Voluntary exchanges usually involve trade-offs. There is nothing involuntary about setting conditions for membership. Countries are free to join and free to not join. However, I will concede my knowledge of the the circumstances of Romania and Bulgaria membership is admittedly threadbare.

At one point this was undoubtedly true. Not after Georgia, though. Besides which, Eastern Europe was understandably somewhat sceptical of the possibility that Russia could transform itself into a modern functional democracy with an advanced economy and subject to all the diplomatic and democratic norms which characterise rules-based international relations. It wasn’t an unrealistic fear, given that since the first mention of Russia in the late ninth century there hasn’t been a single peaceful transition of power.

What worked perfectly well in most parts of the world, enriching ordinary people and alleviating poverty; introducing more tolerant and open societies with better rights for women, homosexuals, and minorities; creating functional societies in which every modern convenience is within easy reach of anyone- proved to be an unalloyed disaster in Russia, where a college professor could find himself losing his job and income overnight in the nineties, his daughter forced into prostitution. It’s not the only place it doesn’t work- but in most places it does- as witnessed by the unprecedented improvements in living standards and other measurable metrics witnessed worldwide since 1991.

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Thank you for sharing your innermost delusions and phantasms with me. Good for you that you were never at the receiving end of “American naivety”, assassinations, bloody coups d’etat, napalm, nukes, colorado beetles, carpet bombings, starvation through sanctions, booby trapped toys, empowering of radical islamists and ultra nationalists.

To promote their own interest that they label as “democracy”. Also what you candidly call “soft power” can have devastating effects on the targeted victim states.

Sorry mate, but this statement is beyond false, only quoted it so you cannot change it later.

Is this an excerpt from the book “How to Lie with Statistics” by any chance?
Also dare i mention that the people “living on under $1.90 a day” were doing so in capitalist systems?
Your desperate attempts to defend an indefensible position amplify your mistakes.

Again labelling forced intervention to serve own interest as “bringing democracy”, that’s been going on for a while now, so less and less people are fooled by it, but you are a persistent one.

More fallacy. The Soviets did not hide their intervention behind the “democracy” mask. Their intervention was bluntly to support the socialist faction of Afghan society as per the Brezhnev doctrine.
You should ask the Afghan people if the Soviet “prescription was shit”. The Soviets “prescribed” the right of girls to education, among other “progressive” things, which obviously were viewed as heresy by the tribal landlord families, which later formed the islamist “Mujahedeen” resistance, which America wholeheartedly supported, trained and armed. One of those mujahedeen became famous, his name was Osama bin Laden, a creation of American “enlightened and ideological” state.

Quoted for lulz, you pulled a silly graph out of your secret box of delusions, “showing” an increase in the number of “democracies”…bet you have some plush unicorns stuffed around somewhere in your stashes of delusion.

Dunno, but labelling military intervention as “bringing democracy” and labelling the instatement of American puppet governments as “people free to govern themselves” is just pure hypocrisy, which is what i came to expect from you.

More comedy.
You are free to join, or free not to join and face the consequences of American wrath, now that’s what i call freedom.

Yeah, except the NATO expansion happened before Georgia. Thank you for proving my point.

The very existence of Quillette is an outcry against your statement.
Also “better rights”…ouch

And true.

Huh? I joined a gym that “obligates” me to part with some of my money every month. I also joined it knowing what those obligations were, and would be. And yet i did so “voluntarily”. Your absolute wingnut position to defend all things Marxist/Russian/Putin “obligates” you to fail at the most basic points of logic, repeatedly.

Oh, and you say you are in Canada…why? The system you hold in such high esteem is so unbelievably awesome, that you won’t live under it?

Are you high?

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